The Crown

The Crown by Colleen Oakes Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: The Crown by Colleen Oakes Read Free Book Online
Authors: Colleen Oakes
Tags: Fiction - Fantasy
fumbling around her cloak. Finally, the ashamed Spade pressed the toy into her palm, and Dinah closed her fist around it. The Spade walked back to the barrel he had been sitting on and leaned over it, peering at Dinah. A keen interest now replaced what had been mockery on his face moments earlier.
    “Eh, so yeh have some of your father’s fiery blood in you then, do you?”
    Dinah scowled at him. “Speak to me again and I’ll have you sent to the Black Towers in a coffin. What is your name?”
    The man paled. “I was just joking, Yer Highness; please don’t report me to the King.”
    “I said, WHAT IS YOUR NAME?”
    His dirty hands wrung together. “Gorrann. Sir Gorrann.”
    “Well, Sir Gorrann, I will not report you to the King this day. But if you ever insult me again, I will just have your head. No need to involve the King.”
    With a hard look she brushed past them, her black cloak trailing behind her. As soon as the red-glass palace doors closed behind her, Dinah plunged into an empty corridor off the main hall. Her lips parted in a soft cry, but she steeled herself from the shame. Victorious, she clutched the wooden seahorse in one sweaty hand and wiped the tears from her face with the other as she made her way to the Mad Hatter.

Chapter Four
    Charles’s quarters were located in the western tower of the Royal Apartments, situated neatly above the castle’s kitchens. Her father had given in building materials what he never gave Charles in life. The King showed no other sign of love, affection, or even duty to his son. Charles’s room, as a result, was one of the strangest places in the entire palace. Huge white columns inlaid with red hearts twisted up to the ceiling where they met an expansive fresco featuring all the creatures of Wonderland. Hornhooves, gryphons, birds of all types, great whales, white-striped bears, and four-winged dragons danced across the ceiling in rich paints.
    It would have been lovely—a gorgeous work of art—if crudely drawn hats had not been scribbled across the creatures in black charcoal. The animals now wore ugly slashes of feathers, top hats, and huge fedoras, in wavy, messy lines that ran from one to another without stopping. The hats were richly detailed, the lines between them angry slashes—the art of madness.
    Sad , Dinah thought as she gazed upward, her hood falling back onto her neck, that madness and genius were always melded together in this room.
    The room itself was a testament to Charles’s obsession. Racks upon racks of hats rose up from the floor, twisting and circling between rickety, half-built staircases that led to nothing but air. Doors had been attached to the hat racks, swinging open and shut with the cold air blowing in from a large open window at the top of the main staircase. This staircase was Charles’s favorite, covered with hundreds of bolts and swatches of fabric. Piles of melting snow were accumulating on the window ledge in little drifts. Dinah gave a sigh and climbed up one of the rickety staircases, shutting the window firmly and securing the clasp. She heard a skittering of tiny feet below.
    “Charles. You cannot leave the window open when it’s snowing outside. It’s bitterly cold in here, and the snow will get all over your new hats. We’ve talked about this.” She dusted off a sturdy gray fedora with orange canary feathers embroidered into a sun and stars. “You have to be careful with them.”
    At her feet, a matted head of dirty, yellow hair rose up in a space between the wide stair treads. “Pink snow on pink hats makes the walrus dance, he dances on the sea, heehee!”
    Charles leapt out from under the staircase. Dinah gasped as he fell to the floor, somersaulting on his rough landing and leaping up into a kicking dance. “Snow on the hat, snow on the hat, black like your Cheshire Cat!”
    He gave a high-pitched giggle and Dinah laughed with him. Charles was younger by only two years, but in his madness he was practically

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